Personal Injury: Proving Fault in a Motor Vehicle Accident
Before stepping inside a courthouse, victims of a motor vehicle accident must contend with a long, frustrating and convoluted legal process. The early stages of a personal injury case are crucial to receiving compensation or agreeing to a settlement. It is here that fault must be proven.
To successfully win a personal injury case and be awarded damages, you must determine who was responsible for the accident that inflicted pain and suffering. More than one party can be held legally responsible but it must be determined that someone’s action or negligence caused the harm. Determining fault isn’t always a straightforward process. It requires deft legal expertise, especially with respect to dividing the legal blame among responsible parties.
To seek damages, there must be at least one other party legally responsible for the victim’s injury. The responsible party or parties will be notified via a notice letter drafted and served by a lawyer.
Contributory negligence is defined as a victim of an accident having failed to act prudently in a situation that resulted in their own injury. While perhaps not the primary cause of the accident, they are deemed to have been a contributing factor. For example, was the victim of a motor vehicle accident wearing a seatbelt at the time of the accident? If they were not wearing a seatbelt, then the victim could be found to have some degree of negligence, which contributed to their own injury. This can reduce damages, and in some situations, make pursuing a case more difficult.
Having contributed to one’s own accident doesn’t mean that other parties are not partially liable for the pain and suffering incurred.
Proving Fault in Motor Vehicle Accidents
Personal injury claims involving motor vehicle accidents require that legal fault be proven for a victim to receive compensation. Proving if a driver was negligent or reckless can involve police reports, witness accounts, accident reconstruction simulations and the help of an experienced personal injury lawyer.
To prove fault, the victim of a motor vehicle accident must answer the following questions:
- Was the damage or injuries suffered caused by the driver of another vehicle?
- Was the defendant negligent? Did they fail to uphold a prudent standard of care while driving?
- Did the defendant have a legal responsibility to avoid causing the accident which led to the injury or damage?
If successful, the plaintiff could be awarded compensation for pain and suffering, medical expenses, lost income and other expenses related to the accident such as auto repair.
The Process of Proving Fault
Proving fault in motor vehicle accidents relies on Fault Determination Rules, which govern Ontario courts with respect to proving the legal fault of a defendant in a personal injury claim. These rules must work in conjunction with other areas of Ontario law. For instance, with motor vehicle accidents, Ontario’s Highway Traffic Act is required to prove fault by determining which laws were broken. This act clarifies if a left turn was illegal or if a driver shouldn’t have changed lanes at the time of the accident. Other documents that help prove fault are police and insurance reports. These reports do not legally assess fault but they do provide context that the injured person and their legal representation can use to come to an understanding.
The burden of proof falls on the injured party. It is their job to prove that the accused caused the accident that harmed the plaintiff. The connection between one’s negligence and the cause of the accident must be airtight. This can be accomplished by gathering evidence and enlisting the help of witnesses and experts. Lastly, the injured party must prove that the injuries are legitimate and supported by medical documentation from a recognized doctor and/or medical specialists.
Proving fault is a complicated process and it’s recommended to seek legal advice or representation early in the process.
Do You Need a Personal Injury Lawyer?
A victim of a motor vehicle accident will want their case handled thoroughly and expertly. Working with a personal injury lawyer can help determine legal fault and start a plaintiff on the path to being compensated for their pain and suffering.
The legal experts at Mackesy Smye will help determine who is at fault, draft the letter of intent, and investigate whether contributory negligence could be a factor. We will work tirelessly to make sure you have the strongest case and the best chance to receive compensation.
Contact us today to discuss your accident and injuries.